How A Skill-Based Hiring Approach Landed Me Into A Diversity & Inclusion Role

Skills, Passion & DEI

Image from iOS (41)Me in Columbia

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Maya Angelou – Grammy Award Winning Spoken Word Poet, Bestselling Author, Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom


My mother decided to name me “Maya ” while listening to Maya Angelou recite, “Phenomenal Woman”. Throughout my life, I have frequently looked towards Mrs. Angelou’s life for inspiration when I felt like giving up. For me, creating a life of passion and purpose began with a decision to rise above the challenges I’ve experienced and reach for more. Unfortunately, that decision alone is not always enough when outdated, pedigree-based hiring practices keep doors closed for people with non-traditional backgrounds and work histories.


Image from iOS (38)Me as a kid

Skills-based hiring creates opportunities for people like me to thrive. It also opens businesses to an untapped market of industrious, loyal, and hard-working employees who often go overlooked. My story is the perfect example.

I always wanted to do work that made a difference. I spent my early childhood in Philadelphia, living in a low-income neighborhood infused with music, dance, art, and high crime rates. A January 2022 statement released by the City Council of Philadelphia called the gun violence in Philadelphia “widespread and relentless,” with Philadelphia’s murder rate in 2021 exceeding its 1990 record. I saw early on what the ravages of generational trauma, poor education, and lack of resources can do to a community.


Image from iOS (37) a photo of me somewhere while traveling

One of my first jobs was working for a non-profit called City Year Greater Philadelphia as a teacher’s assistant. I worked in inner-city schools, creating after-school programs and mentorship opportunities for middle schoolers. I loved that I could see the difference that I was making in the lives of the people I served.

My passion for serving my community stayed with me as I became a mother at 17. I kept working for City Year while attending college as a single mother. I wanted to create a better life for myself and my family, but I struggled to juggle work, school, and parenting alone with little support. I eventually decided to leave college, work full time, and raise my daughter.

Since then, I’ve held multiple jobs in customer service and the food industry. I’ve worked as a secretary for a luxury real estate branch and became an entrepreneur with an extensive network marketing company. When I met my son’s father, I co-founded a retreat center, became a Certified Red Tent Facilitator, and started leading women’s groups. I found affordable opportunities to travel between employment, often volunteering my time in exchange for room and board. I traveled to New Zealand, California, Bali, New Mexico, Columbia, and Mexico.

IMG_5441Monkey Jungle in Bali

My unconventional work history provided me with several valuable skills. Customer service taught me how to de-escalate conflict and navigate interpersonal communications gracefully. Entrepreneurship taught me how to form lasting connections and develop a recognizable brand as the basis of sales. I also refined skills like organization, delegation, prioritization, creating actionable items to meet quarterly goals, digital communication and outreach, and more. Frequent travel taught me the importance of asking questions. Living with people from different cultural backgrounds helped me polish the art of communication. I opened my eyes to the commonalities we all share while developing a healthy respect for the lifestyles and differences we experience across cultures.


Image from iOS (40)Image from iOS (39)
Me and my kids

While I possessed a wealth of real-world experience, many of the jobs I was skilled for were not available to me without a college degree. I desired to do meaningful work that provided flexibility and the financial stability I sometimes lacked in entrepreneurship. I got stuck in a cycle of underpaid jobs that typically offered no career advancement. My skill set felt perpetually underutilized.

That shifted when I started employment with Instant Teams. Instant Team’s emphasis on skill-based hiring allowed me to utilize the skill-set I acquired over the years to begin an entry-level sales position that offered a competitive starting wage, professional development, and the opportunity to work 100% remotely.

While working on the sales team, I attended a training organized by our COO, Erica McMannes, on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). That training re-ignited my passion for doing work that addressed the needs of my community. After researching positions in the DEI field and attending numerous training on DEI work in the corporate sector, I pitched the idea to add a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator into the Instant Teams Rolodex. I was offered the position, and within six months of beginning employment with Instant Teams, I received my first promotion. I was able to earn the dignity of work that I am passionate about, which also pays a living wage. Most employers saw a teen mom and college dropout, and Instant Teams saw a dynamic, hard-working woman who would thrive with more responsibility.

Skill-based hiring gives people with unconventional work histories access to better opportunities, but it also helps businesses. In a 2021 article posted by Forbes,  Hari Srinivasan, VP of LinkedIn product states, “We believe that by taking a skills-based approach to opportunity we can remove barriers for candidates that might not have the degree or network, while also increasing the size of employer talent pools, often letting them pinpoint quality applicants for hard-to-fill roles..”.

My story is not unique. Many workers with non-traditional backgrounds – like Instant Team’s talent pool of military spouses, veterans, and caregivers have developed the skill set, grit, determination, and follow-through necessary to do their jobs well and quickly acquire any additional skills necessary. What sets these workers apart from other groups is their loyalty. The idea of being with a company that is invested in your growth and development, especially as a person with a unique work history, is rare. When you find a company like that, you want to stay and give it your all.

As a military spouse-founded company with a 92% female-identified workforce, Instant Teams is working to deepen its work in diversity and inclusion, creating a holistic DEI approach that behaves in accordance with the needs of our community. While I remain an enthusiastic advocate for skill-based hiring, I enrolled with the University of Hawaii last year to earn my BA in Communications. I want to be the first to earn a college degree in my family. I always wanted to do work that made a difference, and now with the flexibility and opportunity that remote work provides, I am doing just that.